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One Year Later: Reflecting on “Wendy’s Welcome”

Payette Wendy video screenshot

It’s been just over a year since we delivered “You Are Here: Wendy’s Welcome to the ED” to the pediatric emergency department at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children (MGHfC), and a lot has happened since then. In April we presented the project at A’17 AIA Conference on Architecture with Hilary D’Amato, one of the Child Life specialists at MGHfC. September saw us speaking with Darcy Daniels (Wendy’s mother) at the Healthcare Facilities Symposium and Expo in Austin, followed by a final presentation in November at the Healthcare Design Expo and Conference in Orlando. In each case, the opportunity to speak publicly about the project has been an opportunity to reflect on what we’ve learned from our work on “Wendy’s Welcome.”

Wendys welcome photo

By all appearances, the video is working. Though we don’t have targeted research to measure its effectiveness, anecdotes abound of patients being taken to their exam room already knowing what to expect. Whether it’s asking to see the cool lights on the ceiling, recognizing the Child Life Specialist when she walks into the room or understanding that waiting will be part of their experience, people are clearly watching the video and absorbing its message. We’ve heard direct feedback like “the most helpful part was telling me about all the people I will meet and that I might have to wait a long time.” More can still be done to make the video accessible to a larger percentage of the hospital population (like developing a Spanish language version), but it’s clear that making such investments would be effort well spent.

Having a champion for the project on the hospital staff was an absolutely vital component of what it took to make this project happen. It would have been impossible not to recognize the importance of Darcy and Wendy’s tenacity in bringing this project to life, but when we first got involved it was easy to miss how important Sandy Clancy was. We had the opportunity to interview Sandy in anticipation of our presentation at the Healthcare Design Conference, and in that discussion she commented on how few people within the hospital originally understood the project or saw its value. That she did, and that she had the strength of her convictions to keep pushing for what she knew to be a great idea, even without a clear path to success, is an unsung but vitally important part of the “Wendy’s Welcome” story.

Wendys welcome process imageWendys welcome team photo

Every hospital has its Wendy. Though it is beyond dispute that Wendy and Darcy are special people, every hospital has a community of people who are passionate about that institution and have great ideas about improving those institutions. With hospitals focusing increasingly on ways to improve the patient and family experience, finding ways to hear patients’ voices has never been more important. Having the institutional courage to recognize and champion a great idea, even when it doesn’t fit neatly into any ‘box’ has never been more crucial. In the case of “Wendy’s Welcome,” there was a lot of serendipity involved in completing the project, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The healthcare community at large (hospitals, designers, builders, vendors, etc.) can create ways to identify these great ideas and bring them to life. When things like “Wendy’s Welcome” happen, it’s easy for everyone to be amazed that it did. It’s time we all shed that cloak of amazement and commit ourselves to making more things like this video happen. We have the vision and we have the ability. All we need is the commitment.

Internally to Payette, we’ve realized a few things, too. I’ve joked that if we’d known what we were getting into, we might not have taken on this project, but that sentiment is wrong. There’s no question that we significantly underestimated the complexity and magnitude of the effort. Allowing the complexity and scope of work to stand in our way would have been to sell ourselves far too short. Though the specific challenges we faced creating “Wendy’s Welcome” were unique in the context of our practice, the passion for the work, the commitment to excellence and the tenacity in solving technical problems are all the same traits that fuel what we do every day. Our collective ability and willingness to rise to the challenge of a difficult design problem is a fundamental part of who we are and taking on projects that require that level of effort does not risk asking too much. To the contrary – failing to take on those kinds of projects risks asking too little.

Wendys welcome project sketch 1Wendys welcome project sketch 2

One of our motivations for creating “Wendy’s Welcome” was the simple belief that good things would come from stretching ourselves creatively, even if we didn’t necessarily know what those things would be. When we started the project, my assumption was that we would discover a handful of rendering or video editing techniques that would be new and useful to the work we do every day. If any of that actually happened I can safely say that what we learned is pretty subtle and has not had a transformative effect on our architectural practice. What is unequivocally true, however, is that “Wendy’s Welcome” benefitted the people who worked on it in very direct and lasting ways. In one case, one team member had been with the firm for several years, but hadn’t engaged in many opportunities beyond his project work. “Wendy’s Welcome” introduced him to people he otherwise might never had worked with and introduced the entire firm to a set of creative talents that have gotten him involved in other ‘extra-curricular’ activities. Another member of the team cites his role on “Wendy’s Welcome” as giving him both a better understanding of how to be a leader and the confidence to do so. Though it might have been nice to discover some technological innovation, the reality is that any such discovery would have had a pretty short ‘shelf life.’ The extent to which “Wendy’s Welcome” enhanced and accelerated the professional development of our team is considerably more valuable to our firm in the first place and is a gift that keeps on giving.

Related Press Links (from the original release of the video in 2016)​